Resume Refactoring

Guest blog post by: Jason Lowenthal, Advanced Software Engineer, Skyfactor

The last time my boss handed me a resume to review, he didn’t really hand it to me at all. He sent me a PDF attachment in an email. In fact, every resume I’ve seen over the last year or more came to me in a digital file format. One good tip about this – if you use your favorite word processor to export to a PDF format, everyone that gets it can read it because PDF has ubiquitous acceptance across platforms. And now that I’ve told you that, I’m going to explain why I don’t feel like a traditional resume really needs to hold a place of honor in the repertoire of either the hiring manager or the candidate. Most of the time now, a resume really just acts like a pointer to something more profound – a developer’s online presence. What makes for great marketing as a candidate? Inside connections, professional social networking, and online portfolios vastly outweigh resumes in terms of getting noticed and getting interview face-time.

My own professional history attests to my thesis. My third job was with a company deeply rooted in the JVM stack. My resume during the hiring process had .Net written all over it. My resume prior to my fourth (and current) job had .Net and JVM written all over it. I’m now with a company deeply rooted in the PHP stack. It doesn’t matter – my blog post here explains why – because I had something more powerful working for me than technical skills. I had connections and a powerful personal brand.

Inside Connections:

Networking within your professional peer group provides you with the number one most direct resource to getting face time with a hiring manager. A white piece of (digital) paper on a desk (or in an email inbox) means very little to a hiring manager. A resume handed to a hiring manager by someone they’ve grown to trust as productive and reliable means quite a bit more. I firmly believe that it was due to my inside connection at my third job that I even got an interview at all. Otherwise, I don’t think 3.5 years in a tech stack that didn’t match their needed skill set would have gotten much attention. Referrals go a long way towards getting the “welcome to the team” letter.

Online Professional Profiles:

Hiring managers will often ask their senior staff to review potential candidates being hired. If my boss hands me a resume, I’m going to look for mention of two websites immediately, LinkedIn and StackOverflow. If I can look you up on LinkedIn there’s a better than average chance I’ll immediately ask to connect with you there. If I can’t find you on LinkedIn, I’m less likely to take your resume seriously unless you’ve come with a stellar recommendation form one of my peers. That is, of course, assuming that your StackOverflow profile is also absent.

If I cannot find you on StackOverflow or LinkedIn, I’m going to be very hard pressed to make any kind of positive recommendation about you to my employer if you don’t already have an inside connection I trust. The same holds true for when I’ve been interviewed. Both my experience listing on my LinkedIn profile and my StackOverflow profiles have come up in interviews. And, in neither one did the hard skills resume of my resume come up. If at all possible, when I don’t have an inside connection before I interview, I make sure to find one to connect with somewhere within my professional network. That way they’ll know about me by the time the interview does roll around.

Professional Portfolio:

Even if your resume does lack any reference to LinkedIn or StackOverflow, there’s one other thing sure to get my attention quickly. If you have a personal website, blog, or GitHub portfolio listed, that’s where I’m going to look first. As software engineers our craft is quickly moving back towards the same state as that of a photographer or other skilled trades. When hiring a freelance photographer for any reason, they expect to have you request a portfolio. They want to show off, and they also want to make sure you like what you’re hiring them for. There’s no reason to assume we as software engineers are really any different. Between GitHub (or similar) and JSFiddle, it’s simple now to show off your own work to anyone who wants to see it. And, you definitely get brownie points if you’re hosting your own website. If anyone who wants to see it. And, you definitely get brownie points if you’re hosting your own website. If you can prove to the manager and senior staff that you know what you’re doing by actually showing some work you’ve done, that’s a surefire way to get their attention.

Are Resumes Dead, Then?

I like to think that instead of resumes being obsolete, we’re just moving on to the next iteration of the implementation of the resume process. Instead of static text on a page, now resumes have life that can show off the professional character of the candidate applying. Gone are the days where the interviewer knows only what appears on the resume. They can know your face by checking out your online presence. And they can know your work quality. So, make sure to spend some time refactoring your resume too. After all, the next iteration could be the best one yet.

About Jason:

Jason Lowenthal, Advnaced Software Engineer

Jason Lowenthal, Advanced Software Engineer


Jason Lowenthal is an Architectural Software Engineer based in Springfield, MO. A graduate from Drury University, his past work includes stints with Bass Pro Shops, O’Reilly Automotive Inc. and Paperwise. When not contributing his time and talents to his employer, Skyfactor, Jason spends his free time raising his 3 girls, blogging and learning about new technology.